Support for Direct Elections is now a litmus test

Why is Illinois a national laughingstock? The list of reasons is growing. Long before Rod Blagojevich was arrested and the name Roland Burris became known coast to coast, the Illinois Republican Party’s State Central Committee (the party’s governing board) brought in Alan Keyes to run against Barack Obama in the 2004 U.S. Senate race.

In the annals of really stupid political moves, that one will always rank very high. Of course the Keyes debacle wasn’t even the first dumb thing accomplished by IL GOP’s State Central Committee in this decade. Years before Keyes was brought in from Maryland, Judy Baar Topinka was brought in from suburban Riverside and made state party chairman.

Judy was as good a state party chairman as she was a candidate for governor in 2006, when she received less than 40 percent in the general election and won fewer votes than even Alan Keyes had two years before her.

Here’s an important point: as bad as the Illinois Democrats are, they’re still more competent than those who are running our state’s Republican Party. The proof of this has been evident every election cycle since 2000. Regardless of the fortunes of the national GOP — the Illinois GOP continues to demonstrate Olympic levels of dysfunction.

The battle that is raging right now in Illinois Republican political circles has to do with how the party chooses its governing board, the State Central Committee (SCC), which is made up of one member from each of our state’s 19 congressional districts.

Currently, rank and file Republican voters are unable to directly vote for these party leaders, whereas rank and file Democratic Party voters are able to choose theirs. The GOP SCC is currently chosen through an antiquated and easily rigged process.

The Chicago Tribune’s John Kass wrote on the topic just after the 2006 IL GOP general election failure: “GOPvoters need broom to clean house.”

The rumor in Springfield is that a few Republican state legislators are now wavering in their support for the bill. It’s important to note that these same guys have done nothing to strengthen the party, have ignored the disastrous tenure of Chairman Andy McKenna, and frankly have appeared to hardly even know of the existence of the Republican Party organization before now. (In fact, they’re perfect candidates for reading our GOP 101 series which begins here.)

The same feeble mental abilities that have thus far caused our Illinois Republican legislators to shirk their responsibility to offer an alternative vision to Illinois voters – now plagues some of its ranks when it comes to the need for party reform.

No one in their right mind, of course, thinks our state party is working just fine under its current management. A party that continues to shrink every election cycle due to failed leadership is obviously in need of an overhaul.

One Republican activist sent out an email yesterday with this quote from the bill’s sponsor — state Senator Chris Lauzen:

“I would rather cast my lot with the Republican primary voters, than with the current party leadership in picking our state party officials… At the end of the day, Republican primary voters will do a better job in selecting our state party leaders than our current system.”

Reform cannot come to Illinois without a functioning Republican Party. Political reform is the precursor to policy reform.